One of the biggest lifestyle allowances a pickup truck affords is the ability to do more than carry what can fit inside the vehicle. Whether you’re an avid weekender looking to bring your boat or camper up to the lake, someone who needs the capacity to haul heavy construction equipment on the job, or somewhere in between, knowing how to choose the right pickup truck for your needs and safely prepare it to tow will help you avoid pitfalls along the way.
Here’s some information you should know before using your pickup truck for towing purposes.
Know Your Truck’s Weight Ratings: GVWR, GTW and GCWR
Whether you’re in the process of finding your next truck or already have one but want to approach towing in the right way, weight is the primary consideration.
First, there’s the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), or the total amount of weight your truck can hold. This must factor in everything — including the people, cargo, and fluids inside.
Then there is the Gross Trailer Weight, or the stand-alone weight of the trailer or cargo you plan to tow. Be sure to consider not only the manufacturer’s weight for the trailer itself, but also anything you will have inside it come tow time.
Finally, there’s the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR), which represents the maximum weight of your truck plus whatever you’d be towing behind it.
Now it’s time for some basic math. The goal? To never to exceed the GCWR when you add up the GVWR and GTR.
Know Your Truck’s Engine & Transmission
As Consumer Reports outlines, another key factor affecting the towing capacity of your truck is its engine and transmission configuration. The larger and more powerful the engine, the larger the towing capacity tends to be.
Compact truck models tend to come with four-cylinder or V6 engines under the hood, whereas full-size models tend to carry V6 engines — some of which may be turbocharged. The most powerful engines available are V8s, which can handle the heaviest towing jobs but may be overkill for someone looking for a truck that also functions as a relatively efficient everyday commuter vehicle.
Keep these needs and priorities in mind when you’re choosing a truck. Which is more important to you: Higher fuel economy or massive towing capacity? What is the largest thing you anticipate possibly needing to tow? Case in point: If you’re comparing Dodge Ram deals to find your next lease or purchase, these considerations could mean the difference between you choosing a 1500, 2500 or 3500 model.
Know Your Pickup’s Hitch Ratings
Hitches are made up of:
- Receiver: Square apparatus attached to the vehicle
- Ball mount: Will be secured to the receiver before towing
- Trailer ball: Will be permanently attached to the ball mount and depends on the trailer’s specifications
You’ll notice a label on each component with weight ratings. As Autoblog advises, all three of these ratings must be equal to or higher than your vehicle’s tow rating, as undersized hitches can become “the weakest link,” possibly creating unsafe situations.
What happens if you try to tow more than your pickup truck can handle according to its engine, weight rating and hitch? As MotorBiscuit outlines, your truck’s suspension can wear out faster due to ongoing damage from overloading the tow capacity. Your truck may also become more difficult to maneuver and brake, which can become serious safety hazards.
Knowing all about your truck’s weight ratings, hitch and engine capacity before proceeding with a tow job can help you ensure you do it safely and correctly — helping you lessen the chances of damage or safety hazards occurring.
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